‘Union Thugs,’ ‘Employee Freedom,’ and Conservative Lies

Monday, December 17th, 2012

union thugs

(By NCrissie B)

I hope the proverbial cooler heads will prevail in Michigan, as the right-wing media are eager to tell tales of “union thugs” who take away “employee freedom.”

Take Steven Crowder, a contributor to the conservative Dana Loesch Radio Show, who went to the union protests against Michigan’s right to work Freedom to Freeload law with a camera crew in tow, looking to provoke a fight. And he got one:

There was also come clever editing. At about 35 seconds into the video, Crowder is arguing with his hands raised. At 39 seconds there’s an abrupt shift in the camera angle to show a union member throwing a punch. The effect suggests the Crowder was still standing there with his hands raised when the union man started swinging, but we don’t know because of course we can’t see what was cut out during that shift in camera angles. Maybe the unedited footage would spoil the conservative meme of “union thugs.”

This isn’t a new meme. Business supporters have a long history of provoking or even carrying out violence and then blaming unions. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation – a corporate-funded union-busting group – calls union representation contracts “a classic mafia enterprise: the protection racket.”

Of course, they’re all about “freedom to work without coercion,” says Michelle Malkin.

That clever lie ignores the existing federal law that says no one can be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment:

Right-to-work laws do not, as one might think, confer any sort of right to a job. Nor do they have anything to do with people being forced to join a union or pay dues for political causes they do not support. Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to join a union, and no one can be required to pay union dues that fund political causes they oppose.

What is permitted under federal law is for a group of employees to propose – and if their employer agrees, to write into a contract – that all employees who benefit from the terms of a union contract are required to pay their fair share of the costs of administering that contract. Right-to-work laws make it illegal for employees and employers to negotiate such a contract.

In other words, the new Michigan law allows non-union members earn union wages and union benefits and use union arbitration to settle disputes with the boss, without contributing anything to support the union that negotiated those wages, benefits, and arbitration rights. It’s a Freedom to Freeload law, and its intent is to starve unions of members and money until the unions disappear entirely:

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So if this isn’t really about worker’s rights, what is it about? Allahpundit at the conservative HotAir lets the real agenda slip here:

It’s a tough choice, and I sympathize with the unions, but the fact is that in the global economy where you have to compete on wages and other elements, of the units of production, you can you either have, you know, high wages with low employment or you can, as Obama would say, spread around the wealth.

That is, you can “spread around the wealth” of hardworking families. When it comes to tax increases for billionaires and big corporations, Allahpundit writes in another article, that’s “squeezing the rich.”

So this is really all about making hardworking families poorer so the rich can get richer. No wonder union leader James Hoffa predicted “a civil war.”

Needless to say, conservatives are outraged by that phrase. Not so much about blogger Ace of Spades’ reply: “I would advise conservatives – don’t retreat, reload.”

Like I said, I hope cooler heads prevail and the rhetoric is toned down. But if Republicans continue helping billionaires and big corporations prey on hardworking families … at some point, even squirrels will fight to protect their kids.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Newspaper Endorsements for Re-Electing President Obama Keep Rolling In

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Over the past few days, more newspapers, including ones in critical states such as Ohio and Michigan, have endorsed President Obama’s re-election because of his impressive record of accomplishments and strong and steady leadership, and because President Obama has the best plans moving forward for creating jobs, promoting economic growth, and keeping our nation safe.

Below are excerpts from some of the most recent endorsements.  For excerpts of Obama endorsements from other newspapers, see our previous posts here and here.

Please take action to help win this election by sharing these endorsements with anyone you know who is undecided, commenting on and sending letters to the editor supporting these endorsements, and volunteering with the Obama campaign to help get out the vote.


Youngstown (OH) Vindicator – For President: Barack Obama

If there is one corner of Ohio that should vote overwhelmingly for the re-election of President Barack Obama, it is the Mahoning Valley.

We say that not for the tired old reason that the Valley almost always votes Democratic. We say it because when the question “are you better off today than you were four years ago” is asked, the Mahoning Valley can answer yes. And President Obama has earned much of the credit.

. . . .

Under the adage that all politics is local, the Valley’s resurgence would be reason enough to re-elect President Obama. But in addition, Obama has shown a political courage in tackling health care reform, a deep understanding of international issues, and a willingness to compromise — even if it was rejected by Republicans in Congress — that enhance his stature.

Detroit Free Press – Top Reasons to Re-elect President Obama

What’s the best case Barack Obama can make for re-election? Let’s start with the stunning record of accomplishments he has compiled over the last four years

. . . .

The country is safer. Its economy and its largest industry have been restored to health. And health care reform, fought out over 50 years in the U.S. Congress, has at last begun in earnest. When Republicans say pejoratively that Obama “can’t run on his record,” they’re peddling partisan nonsense and indulging a myopic fiction.

. . . .

Obama’s first term proved he can deliver at home under the worst imaginable circumstances, battling multiple crises that individually would have sunk lesser presidents; abroad, Obama has restored American credibility and influence that was frittered away by former President George W. Bush. With a refocus on job creation and long-term sustainability, his second four years could impress even more.

Toledo (OH) Blade – Re-Elect President Obama

During his administration, President Obama has provided pragmatic, steady, centrist leadership that has served the nation well. He has dealt effectively with economic recession at home and turmoil abroad, much of which he inherited from his predecessor. The stimulus he promoted — along with the auto and bank bailouts — helped prevent the recession from becoming a depression.

. . . . .

Jobless rates are still too high. But imagine what the economies of Ohio and Michigan would look like today if Mr. Obama had not presided over the federal rescue of Chrysler and General Motors as they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

That rescue was vital to Ohio, which depends on the auto industry for 850,000 jobs — one of every eight. It has preserved and created assembly and parts production jobs in Toledo and across the state.

. . . .

President Obama’s health-care reform is poised to insure tens of millions of Americans who now lack medical coverage, while reducing the federal deficit. The financial reforms he guided into law are curbing the abuses on Wall Street that contributed greatly to the national and global economic meltdown.

. . . .

In foreign affairs, the President has ended one war begun by his predecessor in Iraq, and is overseeing an orderly troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. He ordered the attack that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terror attacks on this country.

Mr. Obama assembled the international coalition that helped free Libya from four decades of Moammar Gadhafi’s tyranny, without putting U.S. troops in harm’s way. The tough economic sanctions Mr. Obama and U.S. allies have imposed on Iran offer the prospect of forcing that country to give up its development of nuclear weapons.

San Jose (CA) Mercury News – Re-Elect President Obama

Barack Obama deserves a second term as president. Mitt Romney does not come close to measuring up to him as an honest, forthright and compassionate leader.

. . . .

The cool professor is a bit too dispassionate in these contentious times. He would be in a far better position for re-election if he had shown more fight. But better cool than reckless. Better understated compassion than overt disregard for 47 percent of Americans. And better to push breakthroughs in green technology and the novel concept of diplomacy to defuse world hot spots than to pretend that repeating the word “terrorism” over and over will eliminate it.

. . . . .

Obama has faced a level of personal animus unseen toward a president in living memory. It has come mainly from the right, but liberals have been little help. The fact is, Obama’s actions and positions paint him as — gasp — a classic moderate. This once was a good thing in a president. It should be again.

Look at who these men are, what they stand for and who stands with them. Barack Obama is the leader for these times. If he wins a second term, then maybe, just maybe, Republicans will return to putting country before party and recall the value of compromise. That is and always has been how America moves forward.

Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader – Re-Elect President Obama

Barack Obama has a record as president, and though he has not led us to his post-partisan promised land, he has provided steady, principled leadership during an economic crisis.

Obama’s approach — tax cuts for working people and businesses combined with stimulus spending — pulled us back from a depression. If you doubt it, look at Europe which chose austerity over stimulus and keeps sliding back into recession, while the U.S. economy slowly digs out of a very deep hole.

. . . . .

Despite Republicans’ determination to deny him any victories, Obama has a list of accomplishments that speak well for his priorities: Consumers have new protections against rip-offs by credit card and mortgage companies. The student loan program is freeing up $62 billion over 10 years by cutting out banks as subsidized middlemen

. . . .
Despite Republicans’ determination to deny him any victories, Obama has a list of accomplishments that speak well for his priorities: Consumers have new protections against rip-offs by credit card and mortgage companies. The student loan program is freeing up $62 billion over 10 years by cutting out banks as subsidized middlemen
. . . .
As for protecting America from external threats, Obama has been smart and strong, as evidenced by Romney’s embrace of Obama’s foreign policy in their last debate. That might have been just for public consumption, though; Romney has surrounded himself with belligerent neoconservative advisors who led the previous president disastrously astray.
Taking office as the economy was cratering, facing two wars and other crises abroad, and being fought at every turn by determined congressional Republicans has tested President Barack Obama.

The president has passed those tests, though not without leaving skin on the sidewalk. He can look back at a solid, if not remarkable, record of accomplishment that earns this Democrat our endorsement for a second term over Republican Mitt Romney.

No, Mr. Obama didn’t change the culture of Washington, if “culture” is the right word. He made some mistakes, disappointed many. But as Paul Glastris observed in Washington Monthly earlier this year, Mr. Obama looks good when compared to other presidents.

New York Times – Barack Obama for Re-Election

The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.

That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

Progressive Guide to 2012 State Ballot Initiatives – Part 2 of 2

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

This is part 2 of our progressive voters guide to initiatives that will be on state ballots this November.  Part 1 of the guide is available here.

If you live in a state with one of the ballot initiatives, please get involved by speaking with your family, friends, and colleagues; by volunteering; and by writing a letter to your local newspaper editor.  If you live out-of-state, please contribute what you can to support the efforts of the progressive organizations who are working on these initiatives.

Worker’s Rights

Michigan Proposal 2 – vote Yes on the the “Protect Working Families” ballot proposal, which would grant both private and public sector employees a state constitutional right to bargain collectively through labor unions, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements.  At a time of continued assault on the rights of working people, Proposal 2 would provide working Michiganders with protection from right-wing attacks, and would be a strong statement in favor of union rights.

* Protect Working Families

* Contribute

* Volunteer

* Facebook page

* Michigan newspapers


Michigan Proposal 4 – vote Yes on the “Home Health Care Amendment” to help improve the quality and availability of home health care services. The proposal would amend the state constitution to create the Michigan Quality Home Care Council, which would create a registry of qualified home health care providers, run background checks on providers, establish job training programs for home health care providers, establish wage and condition of employment standards for providers, and grant providers a limited right to collectively bargain over wages, benefits, and working conditions.

* Keep Home Care Safe

* Contribute

* Volunteer

*Facebook page

* Michigan newspapers


California Proposition 32 – vote No on Proposition 32, which would vastly restrict the ability of working people and labor unions to engage in political advocacy.  The proposition is billed as an effort to get special interest money out of politics in California. But the reality is that while the proposition would stop unions from spending their members’ dues on political action and restrict campaign contributions from “special interests,” it includes a long list of exemptions that allow hedge funds, investment firms, real-estate developers, insurance companies, and other corporate interests to continue buying elections at will.

* No On 32

* Contribute

* Facebook Page


Campaign Finance

Montana Corporate Contributions Initiative, I-166 - vote Yes on ballot initiative I-166, which: (1) would establish a state policy that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights, (2) calls for restoring Montana’s ban on corporate campaign contributions (which was struck down in June 2012 by the U.S. Supreme Court), and (3) urges the state’s Congressional delegation to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would overturn Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions that establish that corporations have a free speech right to spend unlimited amounts on campaign contributions.

* Stand With Montanans

* Contribute

* Volunteer

*Facebook page

* Montana newspapers



Idaho Propositions 1, 2, and 3 – vote No on Idaho propositions 1, 2, and 3, which seek to approve anti-teacher legislation passed by the Idaho legislature in 2011.  Proposition 1 would forbid teachers from collectively bargaining about anything except wages and benefits.  In other words, teachers would no longer be able to raise their voices about classroom size, funding for classroom supplies, student safety, etc.  Proposition 2 would link teacher pay to standardized testing.  Proposition 3 would try to divert students and funding away from public schools by requiring local school districts to spend money providing laptops to students who pursued on-line schooling.

* Vote No on Props 1, 2, and 3

* Contribute

* Volunteer

* Facebook page

* Idaho newspapers


Oregon Measure 85 – the Corporate Tax “Kicker” Funds for Education Initiative – vote Yes on Oregon Measure 85, which would provide that certain higher than expected tax revenues from corporate taxes would go towards K-12 education funding, rather than being refunded to corporations.  Under Oregon law, the Governor must, every two years, estimate the amount of tax revenue the state expects to receive. If actual revenue from corporate taxpayers exceeds the estimate by more than 2%, the excess amount is refunded.  Measure 85 would provide that such excess amounts are, instead, dedicated to K-12 funding.

* Our Oregon

* Contribute

* Volunteer

* Facebook page

* Oregon newspapers


Washington Charter School Initiative 1240 – vote No on Initiative 1240, which would start chipping away at public education in Washington State by allowing 40 charter schools to be formed over the next five years.  Washington is currently one of only eight states in the US that has no charter schools.  Initiative is the fourth attempt by charter school advocates to bring charters to the state of Washington.

* No on 1240

* Contribute

* Volunteer

* Facebook page

* Washington newspapers

President Obama is a Good Friend of Labor (Though Not Perfect)

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

For Labor Day yesterday, President Obama gave a speech in Toledo, Ohio in which he highlighted his Administration’s strong support for labor unions and the right of working people to collectively bargain over their wages, benefits, and working conditions.  Echoing similar sentiments that he voiced on Labor Day in 2011, President Obama yesterday explained that:

It’s working folks like you who fought for jobs and opportunity for generations of American workers.  It’s working people like you who helped to lay the cornerstones of middle-class security, things that people now sometimes take for granted, but weren’t always there — the 40-hour workweek, weekends, paid leave, pensions, the minimum wage, health care, Social Security, Medicare.  Those things happened because working people organized and mobilized.

It is unions like yours that helped to forge the basic bargain of this country — the bargain that built the greatest middle class and the most prosperous country and the most prosperous economy that the world has ever known.  (Applause.)

And you know what that bargain is, because it’s a simple one.  It’s a bargain that says if you work hard, if you’re responsible, then your work should be rewarded.  (Applause.)  That if you put in enough effort, you should be able to find a job that pays the bills.  You should afford a home to call your own.  That you’ll have health care you can count on if you get sick.  That you can put away enough to retire, maybe take a vacation once in a while — nothing fancy, but you can enjoy your friends and your family.  And, most importantly, that you can provide your children with an education to make sure that they do even better than you did.

There can be little dispute that the labor unions that President Obama rightfully praised yesterday have been struggling for the past few decades, as lax enforcement of labor laws, Mitt Romney-style outsourcing and downsizing, and attacks on public sector employees have led to a significant decline in the proportion of the US workforce that is unionized.  And the Obama Administration has not been able to magically restore labor to the vibrant movement it used to be, and that it needs to be once again in order for to rebuild the secure middle class that brought our nation such great economic vitality.  But President Obama’s leadership has significantly benefited the labor movement in at least two critical ways.

Rescuing the US Auto Industry

The first area where the Obama Administration has been of great benefit to organized labor is the rescue of the heavily-unionized U.S. auto industry. When President Obama took office in January 2009, the U.S. auto industry (along with most of the rest of our economy) was in free fall.  More than 400,000 auto industry jobs had been lost in the previous year and at least two of the Big 3 – GM and Chrysler – were on the brink of running out of money.  In October 2008, President W. Bush, after initial opposition, directed $17.4 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to bridge loans for GM and Chrysler.  But far more action was needed and soon after taking office, President Obama offered the two auto companies substantial additional loans in exchange for agreeing to fundamentally restructure their businesses.  Through such restructuring, all of the relevant stakeholders – workers, creditors, shareholders, and executives – made significant sacrifices.

Both companies have emerged from the process and are now thriving again. More than 1 million jobs, many of them unionized, were saved due to the rescue, and the auto industry has added 200,000 jobs since June 2009.  All of the Big 3 were profitable in 2011 for the first time in seven years, and GM and Chrysler’s sales increased  14 and 26 percent, respectively, last year.  As the companies have recovered, the United Auto Workers union has negotiated bonuses, improved profit sharing, wage increases for entry-level workers, preservation of health care and pension benefits for auto industry workers, and increased investment in US auto facilities.  The up to $7,500 profit-sharing bonuses that the UAW negotiated for each of its 46,000 General Motors employees are the first bonuses that GM has paid to its workers since 2004, and the influx of money from profit sharing at all of the Big Three automakers has been credited with helping Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana have some of the strongest economic recoveries in the nation since 2009.

Without the auto industry rescue, US automakers would have almost certainly have disappeared, taking hundreds of thousands of unionized jobs with them.  Instead, thanks to the Obama Administration, those automakers are thriving, as are the unionized workers whose jobs were saved.

A Functioning, Labor-Friendly NLRB

A second area where the Obama Administration has supported the rights of workers to collectively bargain is in making sure that the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has a labor-friendly majority and enough members to legally operate.  The NLRB is a federal agency charged with protecting the rights of workers to organize and decide whether to have union representation, overseeing union elections, and preventing unfair labor practices.  Throughout 2008, the NLRB operated with only two out of its five positions filled – one of the board members was a Democrat and one was a Republican.  That condition continued throughout President Obama’s first year in office, as Senate Republicans made clear that they intended to filibuster just about anyone who President Obama would nominate.

The presence of only two members on the NLRB effectively neutered the Board’s power in controversial cases, as it meant that the Board could act only if both members agreed in a case. Then, in 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled that the NLRB had to have at least three members in order to have the quorum needed to legally act. Without three members, the NLRB would, in essence, have to close its doors.  As a result, Senate Republicans continued to filibuster President Obama’s nominees to the NLRB in an effort to make the agency meaningless.

In response, President Obama made recess appointments (which do not need Senate approval) of two Democrats – Craig Becker and Mark Pearce – to the NLRB in March 2010.  Becker’s appointment was especially encouraging for labor supporters, as Becker’s previous employment had included being Associate General Counsel to the AFL-CIO and SEIU.  Due to retirements and Senate Republican obstructionism, the NLRB started 2012 once again with only two members.  Facing continued GOP intransigence, President Obama made three additional recess appointments, thereby guaranteeing that the NLRB could function and have a Democratic majority, throughout 2012.

President Obama’s efforts to keep the NLRB open with a functioning quorum has paid off, as the Board has issued a number of rulings that should make it easier for employees to form unions if they wish to do so.  For example:

* The Board ruled that employers must post an 11 by 17 inch poster informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

* The Board has established procedures to speed up the time in which a union election is held after a request for unionization is made.  This rule is designed to limit the ability of employers to delay elections in order to buy more time to undermine a union organizing effort.  Studies show that unions win 87% of elections held within 15 days of a request, but only 58% of elections held 36 to 40 days after the request.

* The Board gave workers additional leeway to form their own collective-bargaining groups so that, for example, if all of the nursing assistants in a nursing home wanted to unionize, they could do so without their employer being able to put other groups of employees, such as maintenance workers or dietary aides at the nursing home, into that collective-bargaining unit.

* The Board re-established a long-standing precedent, which has been reversed by the W. Bush Administration NLRB, providing a newly recognized union a reasonable period in which to establish itself at a workplace before any decertification petition could be filed against that union.

Each of these decisions should make it easier for workers to have their voices heard and their right to organize recognized, and none of them would have happened without the Obama Administration fighting to make sure the NLRB has a quorum of board members who believe in enforcing our nation’s labor laws.

Not a Perfect Record, But a Good One On Labor Issues

Progressive critics of the President will note that there was never a major effort by the Administration to get the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) or similar labor priorities passed.  But the lack of a fight for EFCA was due far more to the fact that the GOP would have filibustered EFCA, and that a number of Democratic Senators – including Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Thomas Carper, and Arlen Specter – refused to vote to overcome that filibuster, than it was to any purported lack of support from President Obama.  And on issues that our President could control – the auto industry rescue and the NLRB – he stepped up for policies that would preserve and strengthen the ability of workers throughout our country to organize and collectively bargain over their wages, benefits, and working conditions. By contrast, GOP attacks on the NLRB, public employee unions, the auto industry rescue, and even the Post Office shows that a Romney/Ryan Administration would almost certainly have labor unions right in their cross-hairs. As with most issues, the choice is clear between a President and political party who care about the rights of workers, and the GOP’s agenda of destroying unions as fast as they can.

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While Romney and Santorum Fought For Votes in Michigan, President Obama Highlighted His Auto Industry Rescue

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum and Mitt “Dog on Car” Romney spent Tuesday battling in the Michigan GOP Presidential primary election, which Romney ended up narrowly winning.  At the same time, President Obama spent his day reminding the American people how he saved more than 1 million jobs by rescuing the U.S. auto industry.  Few issues make clearer the distinction between President Obama and the Republican Presidential wannabees.

When President Obama took office in January 2009, the U.S. auto industry (along with most of the rest of our economy) was in free fall.  More than 400,000 auto industry jobs had been lost in the previous year and at least two of the Big 3 – GM and Chrysler – were on the brink of running out of money.  In October 2008, President W. Bush agreed, after initial opposition, directed $17.4 billion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to bridge loans for GM and Chrysler.  But far more action was needed and soon after taking office, President Obama offered the two auto companies substantial additional loans in exchange for agreeing to fundamentally restructure their businesses.  Through such restructuring, all of the relevant stakeholders – workers, creditors, shareholders, and executives – made significant sacrifices.

But both companies have emerged from the process and are now thriving again. More than 1 million jobs were saved due to the rescue, and the auto industry has added 200,000 jobs since June 2009.  All of the Big 3 were profitable in 2011 for the first time in seven years, and GM and Chrysler’s sales increased  14 and 26 percent, respectively, last year.  As the companies have recovered, the United Auto Workers have negotiated bonuses, improved profit sharing, and preservation of health care and pension benefits for auto industry workers.  And a strong argument can be made that if GM and Chrysler has been allowed to fail, their suppliers would have also failed, thereby undermining the third US automaker, Ford.

The GOP, of course, vehemently opposed the auto industry rescue.  At the time, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed in the New York Times opposing the rescue, and since then he has provided a contradictory morass of excuses for why he opposed President Obama’s auto industry rescue.  Romney’s latest excuse is, essentially, that the rescue treated the industry’s unionized workers too well, which is simply false as the workers agreed to concessions on pay, health benefits, vacations, job security, and work rules.  Romney’s primary competitor, Rick Santorum, similarly opposed the auto industry rescue.

While Santorum and Romney were struggling to get Michigan Republicans (and, in Santorum’s case, Michigan Democrats also) out to the polls, President Obama was reminding everyone how successful the auto industry rescue had been.  Below is the video of President Obama’s stemwinder of a speech to the United Auto Workers’ Annual Conference.  It is well worth your time to watch the entire thing, but here is an excerpt that well-illustrates the competing visions that are at stake in the November 2012 elections.

Let me tell you, I keep on hearing these same folks talk about values all the time.  You want to talk about values?  Hard work — that’s a value.  Looking out for one another — that’s a value.  The idea that we’re all in it together, and I’m my brother’s keeper and sister’s keeper — that’s a value.

They’re out there talking about you like you’re some special interest that needs to be beaten down.  Since when are hardworking men and women who are putting in a hard day’s work every day — since when are they special interests?  Since when is the idea that we look out for one another a bad thing?

I remember my old friend, Ted Kennedy — he used to say, what is it about working men and women they find so offensive? This notion that we should have let the auto industry die, that we should pursue anti-worker policies in the hopes that unions like yours will buckle and unravel -– that’s part of that same old “you are on your own” philosophy that says we should just leave everybody to fend for themselves; let the most powerful do whatever they please.  They think the best way to boost the economy is to roll back the reforms we put into place to prevent another crisis, to let Wall Street write the rules again.

They think the best way to help families afford health care is to roll back the reforms we passed that’s already lowering costs for millions of Americans. They want to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny your coverage or jack up your rates whenever and however they pleased. They think we should keep cutting taxes for those at the very top, for people like me, even though we don’t need it, just so they can keep paying lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Well, let me tell you something.  Not to put too fine a point on it — they’re wrong.  They are wrong.  That’s the philosophy that got us into this mess.  We can’t afford to go back to it.  Not now.

. . . . .

We’re fighting for an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, where everybody does their fair share, where everybody plays by the same set of rules.  We’re not going to go back to an economy that’s all about outsourcing and bad debt and phony profits.  We’re fighting for an economy that’s built to last, that’s built on things like education and energy and manufacturing.  Making things, not just buying things — making things that the rest of the world wants to buy.  And restoring the values that made this country great:  hard work and fair play, the chance to make it if you really try, the responsibility to reach back and help somebody else make it, too — not just you.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we believe in.

. . . . .

America is not just looking out for yourself.  It’s not just about greed.  It’s not just about trying to climb to the very top and keep everybody else down.  When our assembly lines grind to a halt, we work together and we get them going again.  When somebody else falters, we try to give them a hand up, because we know we’re all in it together.

I got my start standing with working folks who’d lost their jobs, folks who had lost their hope because the steel plants had closed down.  I didn’t like the idea that they didn’t have anybody fighting for them.  The same reason I got into this business is the same reason I’m here today.  I’m driven by that same belief that everybody — everybody — should deserve a chance

So I promise you this:  As long as you’ve got an ounce of fight left in you, I’ll have a ton of fight left in me.  We’re going to keep on fighting to make our economy stronger; to put our friends and neighbors back to work faster; to give our children even more opportunity; to make sure that the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth.

The Lessons of Midwest Democracy

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

(By Eric Brehm, cross-posted at Bang The Buckets)

Ask any teacher, and I think they will tell you that learning in the classroom is a two-way street.  While I hope to impart to my students some lessons they find engaging and useful and practical and informative, the truth is I also learn an awful lot from my students.  Some of those lessons are more useful than others.  (My students seem to be particularly adept at finding obscure videos on Youtube, for example — I know more about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On than I ever thought there was to know.)  But on the premise that all knowledge is good knowledge, I am happy to take their advice and see what I can learn in the process.

Why do I mention this?  It’s convoluted, but it goes a little something like this:  Since February of this year, I have been searching for the words to express just how I felt about Scott Walker’s leadership style in the state of Wisconsin.  It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of much of his legislation, but that wasn’t really what put me off.  What really ruffled my feathers was the manner in which that legislation came about.  On my own blog, I’ve referred to Scott Walker as engaging in behavior that is similar to a bully, but that didn’t quite explain it.  I’ve referred to Scott Walker as engaging in behavior that is similar to a fascist — that’s closer, but that didn’t quite explain it, either.  It’s been in the back of my mind for almost ten months, and I still hadn’t quite managed to put my finger on what I wanted to say about it.

Then, about six weeks ago, a student of mine loaned me a book.  The book was Disturbing the Universe by the British-born scientist Freeman Dyson.  Written in the 1970′s, it is an attempt to explain the way in which a scientist looks at the Cold War world.  One section deals with Dyson’s local municipality looking at the legal and philosophical ramifications of allowing Princeton University to carry on experiments with recombinant DNA.  Dyson was asked to serve on a panel to report to the local board about potential dangers, and so on.  There were 11 people on the panel, and after months of debate the panel voted 8-3 to let Princeton University do its thing.

Dyson tells how he had a wonderful time on the committee, and actually ended up on more friendly terms with the three dissenters than he did with the other seven of those who affirmed the recombinant DNA.  He loved the process, he loved the outcome, and he summed up the entire experience quite nicely:

“Democracy, in its slow and stumbling fashion, resolved a difficult and emotional issue, and still allowed the minority to feel that its views had been carefully weighed and not arbitrarily overridden.” (Dyson, Freeman:  Disturbing the Universe, page 181.  Harper and Row, Publishers, copyright 1979.)

And there it was – months later, my student had provided me with the means to stumble upon what I had been trying to say about the Walker Administration and its manner of government.

The Walker Administration does not allow the minority to feel that its views have been carefully weighed and not arbitrarily overridden.

That’s what has bothered me most of all about the manner in which Scott Walker and the Radical, Regressive Republicans have attempted to govern in the state of Wisconsin — the feeling that they have completely ignored or forgotten a principle that is fundamental to government in the United States of America:  The minority has rights.

Supplied with legislation by ALEC and funded by the Koch Brothers, Governor Walker attempts to push through whatever legislation he is told to push through without ever even considering if it is in fact best for Wisconsin or the people who live there.  Bills are rammed through in near secret or at the 11th hour or in violation of open meeting laws in order to minimize those who would speak out against them.  Those that do speak out, in protests at the Capitol or in Letters to the Editor or in opinion pieces in the newspapers or in blogs, are dismissed out of hand.  There is little to no debate — ALEC doesn’t want debate, just results.  So the views of the minority are arbitrarily overridden.

Winning Progressive has been kind enough to allow me to post lists of reasons why I believe Scott Walker should be recalled, and on my own blog this is listed as Reason #9.  But in truth, what we’re seeing in Wisconsin is indicative of a much larger pattern.  Ask Progressives in Michigan if Rick Snyder carefully weighs the views of those in the minority.  Ask Progressives in Ohio if John Kasich does. 

As Dyson suggests in the above quote, this give-and-take between majority and minority is Democracy.  Since January of this year, Governors Walker, Snyder, and Kasich and their Radical Republican supporters have simply told everyone else that they had the power and they intended to use it and there wasn’t a thing that anyone could do about it.  That’s not Democracy.  Democracy in large portions of the Midwest has been broken for quite some time now. 

Thankfully, there is a solution to the problem of a broken Democracy.  It’s more Democracy.

Ohio’s recent overturn of Senate Bill 5 is a fine example of democracy in action, as is the current recall effort in the state of Wisconsin.  A group of citizens, armed only with their rights, are moving to show Radical, Regressive Republicans that they ignore the people at their own political peril.  I’m not always certain that the lessons are sinking in, but that’s okay for now.  As a teacher, it is my job to provide lessons as many times as necessary to my students.  As Progressives, we can all work to make sure that politicians such as Governors Walker, Snyder, and Kasich learn that the will of the people shall be the law of the land.